Kirkus Reviews Gives 100 Miles a Rave

Photo: Spencer Ainsley/Poughkeepsie Journal

Photo: Spencer Ainsley/Poughkeepsie Journal

More than anything, we writers want readers—particularly discerning readers and critics—to get our work. We want readers to see the parallels to other literature and to make the comparisons without our having to point these things out. We want readers to appreciate the long hours that we put into making our books as close to perfect as our talent allows us.

Recently Kirkus Reviews gave my new novel One Hundred Miles from Manhattan a stellar review. But beyond any praise that they give the book, what I most like about the review is that the reviewer saw the parallels between my novel and Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson, as well as the stories of John Cheever. I’m pleased by this because, although I have never said as much outright, I was absolutely influenced by those works in the writing of 100 Miles.

In the last sentence of the review, the reviewer writes, “Though not quite as sensitive an observer or exceptional a writer as Cheever, Orcutt lies satisfyingly in his shadow.”

While I’m incredibly flattered to be compared with one of my heroes, I do wish that last sentence read as follows:

“Though not quite as sensitive an observer or exceptional a writer as Cheever yet, Orcutt shows promise of reaching Cheever’s level in time, and for now lies satisfyingly in his shadow.”

Below is the Kirkus Review in its entirety. My thanks go out to the anonymous reviewer who took the time to read my work with care and to craft a well-written review.

 

KIRKUS REVIEW of One Hundred Miles from Manhattan

Welcome to Wellington, New York, where, in this loose novel, readers can eavesdrop on the lives of the uber-rich and those who cater to them.

Think of a very, very upscale Winesburg, Ohio—with no inhabitant nearly so innocent as young George Willard. Or think John Cheever, for this is certainly Cheever country. Wellington is about a hundred miles north of Manhattan, populated by such as the well-named Hamilton Highgate and his trophy wife, Caprice, and Carlton Hale, M.D., the wives’ favorite doctor. And there’s Jimmy Tatko, the studly contractor who decides to make a circuit on foxhunt day, apologizing to all the rich wives he’s schtupped and then forsaken. Things don’t turn out well for Jimmy, considering his stomach cancer. The most Cheever-esque story of all may be “Garbage Feud,” in which after the unnamed narrator throws his trash, innocently, into the wrong dumpster, now the feud is on and there’s no backing down. Things escalate until Crawford, the narrator’s nemesis, flips his truck with a disastrous outcome—but in a twist for our times, a literary agent sees the newspaper account, so there’s likely a million-dollar book and movie deal in the offing. Unlike some framed stories, main characters in one chapter will reappear, often as cameos or just references, in another. Readers do get a sense of Wellington as a real place where lives intertwine. Jimmy, for instance, may pleasure a fellow’s wife in one chapter, then turn up in another to give an estimate for his kitchen remodel. For all their wealth, most of these people are not happy—an old trope, of course, but one that Orcutt slightly twists. There are random acts of kindness, and in a heartening episode, someone steals an abused dog. Sometimes, even for those characters who are disagreeable or worse, there are hints that even they deserve our pity.

Though not quite as sensitive an observer or exceptional a writer as Cheever, Orcutt lies satisfyingly in his shadow.

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By Chris Orcutt

Writer — The Dakota Stevens Mystery Series, Short fiction, Plays — Editor & Speechwriter for Hire — Avid Golfer, Chess Player & Awesome Wood-Splitter — Twitter: @chrisorcutt

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